Nature writing treads a very delicate line, much like Liberal politicians and Gospel singers. It preaches almost entirely to the already converted.
Those not particularly interested in the plight of the natural world, or without sympathy to the fragility of the world and its (non-human) inhabitants, are unlikely to seek out Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring or the next Monbiot speaking tour.
However, there are books within the field that not only surpass the worthiness of the crusty brigade, but circumvent it entirely, by placing themselves across genre altogether.
Corvus is the telling of Esther Woolfson’s family life. A family that happens to fundamentally involve mostly accidentally accrued birds within its membership. Most importantly, for the purpose of this book, it’s the Corvids – crows, rooks, ravens, magpies, jackdaws, jays and choughs – that have inspired and enhanced her life.
Receiving a young rook in an act of rescue kindness a journey begins, where the inter-relationship possibilities of human and bird are discovered and rejoiced in. The rook is clever, inquisitive, adventurous, emotional and capable of understanding and reacting to all of these things in her keeper.
I say keeper because ‘owner’ is not at all appropriate. Woolfson and Chicken develop a genuine relationship where the human tends to and protects the bird, but does not possess it in any way. The needs of the bird are paramount, and those that cannot be given (flight and access to the outside and mates) are anguished over.
The collection of birds spreads, with the magpie Spike a particular addition. A rival to even Chicken in his extreme personality.
The love and affection Woolfson shows for her charges, and her empathy and interest in the wider corvid population of the world, is both infectious and fascinating. Moreover, her tales of the day-to-day of a house with Chicken and Spike are genuinely hilarious and supremely affecting.
An acclaimed short story writer Esther Woolfson has written the perfect cross-genre book and it is worth every second of the time you will spend absorbing and adoring it.